Senior Associate, Mandy Hetherton, recently completed an action learning programme for a group of managers at The Body Shop who had been trained as mentors. The aim of the action learning programme was to embed the questioning and listening skills which lie at the heart of successful mentoring.
When we evaluated the programme, participants considered that it had helped them be better mentors in a number of ways.
Presenting an issue to the group enabled participants to experience the difference between open and leading questions, and to also appreciate the importance of silence – being allowed to think without being interrupted. This built empathy with their mentees’ position, and made a positive difference in their mentoring. The action learning set offered the chance to practise asking questions but with less pressure than in a one-to-one situation like mentoring. It also enabled participants to experience different questioning styles and expand their own repertoire.
Having the opportunity to practise the skills of action learning over six months not only enhanced participants’ capability as mentors; it had built their capacity as people managers, influencers, and problem-solvers. Participants became advocates of action learning for wider leadership development, as well as for enhancing mentoring.
More people should be given the opportunity to take part in action learning – it would improve the coaching skills of many people who manage people